Is it the quarterback or is it his situation? It's a question we've gnawed on for well over a year now.
It was the primary question posed throughout the course of the 2019 season, as Tom Brady and the Patriots offense struggled with little in the way of established weaponry around the future Hall of Famer. Then we saw how he dealt with a much different crew in Tampa Bay the following year.
The question popped up again in 2020, looking at Josh Allen and his rise as the talent around him grew. It popped up this offseason as we've wondered what Sam Darnold might've been capable of had he been in a better situation, or whether or not the Dolphins need to give Tua Tagovailoa time with better pass-catchers before moving on.
It's always there. It'll always be there. But lately there's a new poster child for the importance of that marriage between a quarterback and his situation: Carson Wentz.
In 2017, Wentz was lights out. He had Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz at the height of their powers. He had a tremendous offensive line. And had it not been for a season-ending injury, he might've been in the MVP conversation that year.
In 2020, Wentz was a shell of himself. The situation was a disaster, and he followed suit.
So which quarterback is he? And can he be fixed? Is it in his head, or does he just need a little help to get him all the way back to the player he was three years ago. He's only 28. He should still be in his prime. And yet, according to Ron Jaworski, the best offer the Eagles have received for Wentz's services is two second-round picks from the Colts.
Let's dive into some of the numbers at play with Wentz and figure out whether or not he makes any sense for the Patriots ...
CAN HE PLAY?
Well ... which version of Wentz are we talking about here?
He was arguably the worst starting quarterback in football in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, his 24 turnover-worthy throws led the NFL even though he was benched for most of the final month of the season. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks, he was 31st out of 32 players in yards per attempt (6.0), quarterback rating (72.8), rating from a clean pocket, adjusted completion percentage (70.1), expected points added per play (-0.054) and completion percentage over expected (-5.6).
Yet, in 2017, surrounded by a great supporting cast, he was arguably a top-five passer until he suffered a season-ending injury. He had a 33-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and he was eighth in the NFL in rating (101.9). There was a good football player somewhere there. But the question is whether that player will ever return and if it'll require a loaded roster to get him anywhere close to that point again.
In New England, depending on how the offseason shakes out, there's a chance Wentz would be behind a very good offensive line. And they could upgrade their pass-catchers via free agency and the draft. But if Wentz needs to be dropped into an ideal offensive situation, then Foxboro doesn't look like a great spot for him at the moment.
WOULD PATS FIND IT FEASIBLE?
The reported best offer for Wentz, two second-round picks, isn't exactly a franchise-crippling payment for a starting quarterback who should be in his prime. But Wentz played so poorly last season that it feels like a lot to relinquish.
When one considers where the Patriots sit at this point in their roster-build -- in a far different spot than the Colts, for instance -- giving up that kind of draft capital would feel crippling if Wentz remained a below-average passer moving forward.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
This is what makes this inevitable trade a fascinating one. The Eagles will be on the hook for a $33.8 million dead cap charge, when the cap is set to crater for all teams -- and they still want to get rid of him. It was that bad in 2020.
Wentz's play and his reported attitude as his performance tanked have made this situation untenable, and now the Eagles are on the clock. They owe Wentz another $10 million by March 19 in the form of a roster bonus. Whichever team acquires Wentz would be taking on just over $25 million onto their cap for 2021 and $22 million in 2022. Not cheap. But still far from the cap-management disaster facing Philly.
LIKELIHOOD IT HAPPENS
The trade compensation. The contract. The reported coachability issues. For a rebuilding team like the Patriots, for a team that prides itself on an environment built on hard coaching, Wentz doesn't seem like the best fit. Hard to describe anything the Patriots do as "shocking." But this would come close.